Membership issues coming to the forefront

By Rex HoggardOctober 10, 2012, 7:58 pm

There is a turf tussle brewing and it has nothing to do with the ongoing cross-border skirmishes between Turkey and Syria, although the seeds of discontent seemed to have been sown this week along the Mediterranean Sea at the posh Antalya resort.

In the same news cycle, word emerged from this week’s Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals, a non-sanctioned big-money boondoggle featuring eight of the world’s top players, that the Turkish Open would become the penultimate event on the European Tour schedule in 2013.

Not long before that newsbreak, European Tour players learned via a memo that the circuit would begin counting starts in the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Seve Trophy toward their minimum starts total (13), which prompted Tiger Woods, however innocently, to suggest that he would he consider taking up membership on the European circuit.

“I don't know what my numbers are as I know I played 19 in the (United) States this year and whether it crosses over or not but I will again look at it,” Woods told the Associated Press.

Writing teachers would call all this foreshadowing. A prologue to what is shaping up to be a power grab between the PGA Tour and European circuit.

According to multiple sources the Turkish Open, BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions will serve as a run-up to the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour’s year-long finale.

Replace the phrase “run-up” with “playoff” and “Dubai” for “Atlanta” and one sees where this is going. All that’s missing is a FedEx Cup logo and an endless parade of points projections.

Europe is making it easier for the likes of Woods to join their tour by effectively reducing the minimum number of starts by including participation in a Ryder or Presidents cup. Although the move was intended to help American-based Europeans, like Luke Donald and Justin Rose, it has the added benefit of making the European Tour more attractive to potential American members.

Think of it as a “Buy 12 starts, get the 13th start for free” campaign.

The move could also create some interesting scenarios, particularly in Woods’ case. If, and that’s a huge if, Woods takes up European Tour membership, he could play the four majors, four World Golf Championships and whatever cup for nine of his 13 starts.

The final four would likely be a mix of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship or Dubai Desert Classic, one of which he’s played seven times since 2001; Turkish Open, which would dovetail with a reported endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines, and DP World Tour Championship.

Here’s the rub, because of European Tour regulations Woods’ 13th start would have to be somewhere in Continental Europe – perhaps the BMW PGA Championship, the circuit’s flagship event which is historically played the same week as Colonial and not included Woods in the field since 1997.

Yet according to PGA Tour guidelines Woods would only be allowed three competing-event releases to go play in Europe unless he plays more than 20 events in the United States or is given special dispensation by commissioner Tim Finchem.

Woods hasn’t played more than 20 Tour events in a season since 2005 and he currently has 19 starts with no additional U.S. stops scheduled in 2012, which leaves the ball in Finchem’s court.

And if recent history is any indication Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., may not completely embrace Woods’ newfound globetrotting ways. Just this week, for example, the Tour granted competing-event releases for all eight players at the Turkish Airlines World Golf Finals based on a quid pro quo to play the Open, this week’s Tour stop, at least once over the next three years according to multiple sources.

The Tour is rightfully keen to protect a loyal sponsor in John Fry, but it is the players who are caught in the middle of a rapidly shrinking global schedule. Or, to put it in cash context, they can play for a $900,000 winner’s check this week in California or a $1.5 million bonanza in Turkey, or $300,000 for last place.

From the Tour’s point of view these events don’t suggest global golf is heading toward critical mass. In fact, since the advent of the FedEx Cup in 2007 there has been less of a strain on cross-ocean participation according to officials.

“It hasn’t been an issue for several years now,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications and international affairs. “We have seen the number of conflicting event releases go down over the last seven, eight, nine years. There are a lot of reasons for that. I don’t know that we think it will be much of an issue going forward.”

Perhaps, but it doesn’t take a risk-assessment team to outline the alternative.

The Tour’s move to a split-calendar schedule, combined with the rumored “run-up” events to the Dubai finale, could, in theory, change that dynamic and put the Tour and events like the Open, which is slated to kick off the 2013-14 season next fall, in a bind.

What if push suddenly became shove, and the Tour was dealt a pair of globetrotting superstars in Woods and Rory McIlroy, who is already a European Tour member, with divergent agendas?

What if quid pro quos, like this week’s agreement with the “Turkish Eight,” became less accepted and more acrimonious? How far would the Tour go to protect its sponsors and its brand?

As the global golf schedule continues to shrink we may find out.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.